[Film Review] Crazy Heart (2009)

Crazy Heart poster

Title: Crazy Heart
Year: 2009
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Drama, Music, Romance
Director/Writer: Scott Cooper
based on the novel of Thomas Cobb
T Bone Burnett
Stephen Bruton
Cinematography: Barry Markowitz
Jeff Bridges
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Colin Farrell
Robert Duvall
Jack Nation
Paul Herman
Debrianna Mansini
Beth Grant
Ryan Bingham
Tom Bower
William Marquez
Rating: 6.7/10

Not everyone deserves a second chance, what do we see in Bad Blake (Bridges)? A 57-year-old scuzzy musician on the brink of bankruptcy, touring in small bowling alleys (hey! it is the Dude himself back in his favorite haunt) and bars to make ends meet, what is more pathetic, he is an inveterate alcoholic. But, he is a legend of his profession, though he has been on the downturn for too long and alcohol seriously bogs down his songwriting gift along with his health, now he basically banks on his old discography to attract his diehard/desperate groupies and holds an invidious grudge towards his protégé Tommy Sweet (Farrell), who is the red-hot country star now, but becomes more and more independent from him.

CRAZY HEART is Scott Cooper’s debut film which finally won Jeff Bridges an Oscar more for his overdue status (5th time is the charm) than the caliber of the performance per se. There is no denying of the country-veteran finesse on stage from the musically inclined Bridges, which rightfully should also be obliged to a killing soundtrack cooked up by Mr. Burnett and the late Stephen Bruton. Mr. Bridges certainly goes out on a limb to make Bad Blake a thorough and convincing transformation from a down-and-out performer lolling in his dim motels watching Mexican soapie to a smitten soul resuscitated by a May-December romance with a young singer-mother-cum-journalist Jean Craddock (Gyllenhaal), we see him drinking, performing, vomiting, meeting-cute, touring with Sweet, parenting, drinking, panicking, repenting, drinking, vomiting until he passes out in his bathroom, then drying-out and finally he can write some new materials, the trajectory is ever-familiar, but proffers carte blanche for Mr. Bridges to rescue his character from his self-destructive morass and render as much sympathy as possible.

But the plot takes some arbitrary licenses in their doomed romance, for instance, if one intends to blame Bad’s alcoholism for the incident causes the riff between him and Jean, the approach should have been more specific, in lieu of simply making a toddler disappear even before Bad is visibly well-oiled, which seems to imply that Jean is over-reacting in the aftermath (because the scenario could happen to everyone other than those who are under the influence), to shift some burden from Bad’s behavior to Jean, and harshly intimate that she might not be such a saintly savior as we see, albeit in our moral compass, whoever is brave enough to kiss that alcohol and smoke soused mouth, then subsequently falls in love with a character like Bad Blake, must be a self-sacrificing angel!

Ms. Gyllenhaal usurps an Oscar nomination too, but her character is pigeonholed into a generic love interest slot, with no further delving into her psyche except for her overbearing maternal protection towards her son, also in the love-making shots, there are tangible awkwardness between her and Bridges, perhaps, both are too self-aware of their gaping age difference, against Cooper’s conspicuous endeavor to project Jean in the centre during their making out, to pinpoint that she is literally enjoying the process, which only becomes embarrassingly risible, betrays a stinking whiff of self-boasting of a unpleasant, elder man’s potency. Colin Farrell, during his limited screen-time, brings a breezy personality with his undisclosed singing bent, in a surprising way, his Tommy Sweet is not a blatant ingrate as we had anticipated (mostly influenced by Blake’s steely taciturnity whenever his name pops up). At bottom, CRAZY HEART is a slightly above-par independent charmer, nevertheless doesn’t live up to all the accolade it has sparked.

Oscar 2009  Crazy Heart

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